Getting from A to B with Samsonite’s CEO, Kyle Gendreau

Samsonite CEO Kyle Gendreau lets us in on what it's like to be at the helm of one of the world's largest travel brands - and what he keeps in his suitcase.

Samsonite is one of the few brands able to keep up with our demanding lifestyle by rethinking materials and designing products to accommodate to our ever changing world. Continuing to redefine the way that we get from A to B - not just at the airport but also in our daily life - Samsonite's CEO, Kyle Gendreau, explains what it's like to be at the helm of one of the largest travel brands in the world.

How did you get your job?

I've been at Samsonite for 12 years - 10 of which I've served as CFO. During this time the brand has transformed from largely selling in wholesale and travel to become a multi-brand, multi-channel and multi-category business. For me to slot into the CEO role was a wonderful and exciting opportunity. It's a lot of fun!

What would you like to achieve in your time as CEO?

There are brands that have been driving this industry for a long time, and as we are the leader in the market, we shouldn't let our guard down. It's important we continue to grow, to invest in advertising and make sure that we're driving investments so we can continue the story that we've been telling for more than 100 years.

How is Samsonite looking to change the way we travel?

We want to make your travels easier. For instance, years ago people literally had to carry luggage until we added tiny wheels - first two wheels, then four - we're the guys that took luggage and then stood it up. Small things make a big difference: we're currently focused on making luggage lighter as a result of airline regulations.

What makes a good suitcase?

Quality makes a good suitcase; it has to be fully functioning with all the features you'd expect - and then there are the extras. It's these little extras that continue to make it that much more convenient for a consumer, but the baseline is, it needs to be pure quality.

Would you say you have a particular favourite suitcase at the moment?

I try a lot of our suitcases. My whole family has the Red Cosmolite. I also like the TUMI backpack and I'm carrying a Samsonite backpack right now; I like to rotate them. I think the level of functionality that TUMI delivers in its backpacks is really excellent - I'm a good sampler as I am travelling 80 per cent of the time.

Who is the Samsonite customer and what are they looking for?

I think American Tourister has products which are terrific for entry-level travellers, and the Samsonite products are for that next level. Overall, the Samsonite brand is for a savvy business traveller. The price points differ as we're focused on making sure that the value equation is right - so what you're paying for you're getting value back.

There seems to be quite a focus on young professionals at the moment, is that a particular market you want to target?

Yes, you have different people in different phases of their lives - you have your younger consumers, your new family and you have the business professionals, and we want to cater to them. The baby boomer population is travelling more and more… we have a brand for whatever phase of life the customer is in.

What is next for Samsonite?

For us it's making sure we don't take our position for granted. We're finding that younger consumers tend to travel with more unstructured luggage, so you'll see us investing a lot in "non-travel products" such as backpacks and duffles.

And finally, what's in your SUITCASE?

I tend to always have a sports coat and a few dress shirts. I don't have time for a lot of leisure when I'm travelling because I'm always focussed on getting home, so I tend to be very focused and try to use a carry on everywhere I go. I'm a very simple packer. I've learned exactly what I need and don't pack much more - it makes for an easier journey.

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